To find your way around, please roll over the drop-down menus along the page top or click here for the
INDEX OF 800+ items of content

➢ THE MENU at top leads you deeper into the history of this Aladdin’s Cave of 80s gems.
➢ THE BLOG POSTS on the front page offer topical updates which also link to the deeper history pages.
➢ LINKS IN THE SIDEBAR will broaden your worldview in all manner of ways.

ON MOBILES – In the blue bar atop your mobile page, click the three horizontal lines linking to blue themed background pages…

➢ AT RANDOM – Click here to visit a different random item at Shapers of the 80s every time you click

Clare Thom, Michele Clapton, Blitz Kids

Blitz Kid style 1980: Outside the Carburton Street squat, Clare-with-the-Hair and Michele Clapton-with-the-awesome repose. Photographed © by Derek Ridgers

Defining the Swinging Eighties

Because the people who write the music history books usually weren’t there


“If we recast the 80s as a subcultural timeline, the ‘decade’ actually spanned six years. They began in June 1978 when David Bowie’s world tour hit the UK – rallying dispossessed punks and kindred music-loving nomads who came to recognise they were not alone.

“These Eighties ended in Dec 1984 with what remained for 13 years the biggest-selling single in UK pop-chart history, Do They Know It’s Christmas? This was an unprecedented act of charity through collaboration by 47 members of rival bands calling themselves Band Aid, who had risen on the same post-punk wave. They raised millions for the Ethiopian famine.

“Crucially, Band Aid confirmed a new British pop establishment of musical innovators. And coincidentally, it laid the foundations for Live Aid, the globally mounted fund-raising concert held in July 1985 and watched by 400 million viewers, across 60 countries.”

➢ Click here to read my full analysis,
The Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics,
at The Observer Music Magazine 2009




About Shapers of the 80s

❏ Except where specifically attributed to others, all text on this website is the work of David Johnson, a journalist based in London, who learnt his trade under the gifted and demanding editor Charles Wintour (yes, indeed, father of Anna) on the world’s most stimulating metropolitan newspaper, the Evening Standard (founded 1827) which had previously been credited with helping shape the Swinging Sixties. In the Seventies the Standard published six editions a day, six days a week, and was circulated throughout greater London, to Britain’s major provincial cities and a dozen international capitals.


Newsboy 1863-66, by Augustus Mulready © York Museums Trust

As a staffer at the Standard by day, Johnson edited a column on young London called On The Line, named after Eddy Grant’s 1979 hit Living On The Front Line.  By night, while freelancing for the edgy new magazines The Face and New Sounds New Styles, his forays into Britain’s gregarious world of youth culture yielded such unrepeatable reportage that it soon made sense to carry a camera and snap for the moment. The results established his monthly review of UK nightlife in those style magazines long before there were enough club-nights to warrant listings in city events guides. Simultaneously our hack was also moonlighting and editing the twice-weekly music pages of a national newspaper which shall remain nameless, but was shrewd enough to dedicate one of those pages to dance music.

Evidently, for about five years, he didn’t get much sleep but did produce the stuff you find online here today, some of which ended up in anthologies such as The Faber Book of Pop, 1995. All of which would, let’s hope, meet with Charles’s liberal-minded expectations. His catchphrase was: “Ferchrissakegetitright!” Do feel free to disagree with this previously untold slice of subcultural history. Johnson couldn’t be everywhere at once.

What’s hot at Shapers of the 80s

Andrew Ridgeley , Wham Rap, video, Face magazine, Club Culture,

Click pic to open the Wham Rap! video in another window … “Man or mouse” Andrew Ridgeley establishes his group’s clubbing credentials in the opening shots of the Wham! video by reading this cover story on Club Culture first published in The Face in 1983 and for years the No 1 read at Shapers of the 80s!

❏ OVER THE PAST 14 YEARS Shapers of the 80s has received 2.2 million views, according to year-ending stats measured by our host, WordPress. Our 850+ published items total half-a-million words, which is several times more than most books, so it pays to explore the various navigation buttons. Here are links to the half dozen posts which remained among the most popular with readers during 2022…

➢ Photos inside the Blitz Club, exclusive to Shapers of the 80s

➢ 69 Dean Street and the making of UK club culture – birth of the once-weekly party night (1983)

➢ Why Bowie recruited Blitz Kids for his Ashes to Ashes video (1980)

➢ 20 gay kisses in pop videos that made it past the censor

➢ First Blitz invasion of the US — Spandau Ballet and the Axiom fashion collective take Manhattan by storm (1981)

➢ Posing with a purpose at the Camden Palace — power play among the new non-working class (1983)


Click these links from earlier years

❏ During its first five years, Shapers of the 80s averaged 192,000 views annually. In 2017 the sudden death of George Michael generated much interest across three posts, chief among them Paul “Scoop” Simper’s personal tribute to his friend. . . Spandau’s long-awaited loss of their singer prompted speculation over his successor with So who can fill Tony Hadley’s big Ballet shoes?. . . New insights into the creator of Ziggy Stardust’s costumes ensured the popularity of our post headed “Burretti movie adds an epic and essential chapter to the Bowie story”.

❏ During 2016, sadly the death of David Bowie in January marked our biggest ever monthly audience of 43,000 visits since the death of Steve Strange in the previous year. If Shapers of the 80s is about any individuals at all, David and Steve are the heroes who shaped that decade like few others.

❏ By 2015, one key article had emerged as the most widely read of all. “The Making of Club Culture” explains the uniquely British explosion in creative nightlife during the first years of the 80s – much enhanced since my original research was first published as the cover story for The Face No 34.

❏ By 2014, our most popular feature reflected the continuing fascination with the “Three key men in Boy George’s life”, which we published in 2010. Read it by clicking here.

❏ 2013 identified the features attracting most visits to Shapers of the 80s – click to discover the Top 20 most read.

❏ 2012 saw a peak of 270,400 visits to Shapers of the 80s … Read how modest Midge Ure wrote the biggest selling pop single of his generation.

❏ In 2011 visitor numbers to Shapers of the 80s doubled — best for Blitz Kid photos and eye-witness memories.

❏ May 2010 brought the first major spike in visits to Shapers of the 80s — among the top stories we had the original Blitz Kids discussing “How real did 1980 feel in the TV drama about Boy George?”



Nick Knight, 1985, Almond, Strongman, Egan, Strange, Caryn Franklin

“People of the 80s”: for i-D magazine’s fifth anniversary, 100 were photographed in 1985 © by Nick Knight. Top left, pop singer Marc Almond, deejay and journalist Jay Strongman, club entrepreneur Rusty Egan, singer and club entrepreneur Steve Strange, fashion editor Caryn Franklin and club entrepreneur Nick Trulocke. Finally, we see some hack from the London Evening Standard

➢ More on Nick Knight’s shoot here at Shapers of the 80s



❏ Shapers of the 80s was declared an “invaluable website” in 2012 by historian Dominic Sandbrook, author of the rich new cultural analysis, Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974–1979. We report how Sandbrook gives generous credit in his book to key influencers on youth culture. His unstuffy combination of high and low life also energised the BBC2 series The Seventies aired in 2012.

❏ In October 2019, Dominic Sandbrook heaped further praise on this website in a “masterful, mammoth new book”, Who Dares Wins: Britain, 1979-1982 (published by Allen Lane). In a long chapter on the pop cultural explosion that reverberated to Margaret Thatcher’s election and subsequent break with the postwar Keynesian consensus, Sandbrook cites copiously from this website adding in his footnotes: “See also David Johnson’s fabulously detailed website Shapersofthe80s.com to which I am hugely indebted.”

The Financial Times reviewer noted how the book provided “a full and rich account of the period. Sandbrook is as at ease with the social, cultural and lifestyle changes of the time as he is with the critical political events, drawing shrewd connections between them, observing the different ways in which both Fawlty Towers and To the Manor Born, though television comedies, tell as much about the state of the nation as the BBC’s Play for Today.”

❏ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s, telly don Simon Schama succinctly expresses why we should document the “irreverent freedom” that is a special aspect of life in Britain.



David Johnson, portrait , Chris Sullivan, shapersofthe80s,

The face behind Shapers of the 80s

❏ One of the bravest things I’ve ever done – apart from disagree with a newspaper editor – was to pose for my portrait. When Eighties uber-Wag Chris Sullivan invited friends to crowd-fund his book Rebel Rebel, the prize offered for the topmost pledge was a Rondo-esque portrait painted in the style of one of his band Blue Rondo’s wittily cubistic 12-inch record sleeves.

I snapped it up (never forget Sullivan switched from fashion onto the fine-art course while at St Martin’s) and here’s the result: Yours Truly in acrylic and crayon on canvas as rendered by Sullivan. Intriguingly, my chance to look like any of those cool guys in Me And Mr Sanchez in 1981 has transmogrified into something else… What this thoughtfully worked portrayal brings to mind are the qualities identified by the critic John Berger when he said: “Art is the provocation for talking about enigma and the search for sense in human life. One can do that by telling a story or writing about a fresco by Giotto or studying how a snail climbs up a wall.”

So, big thanks go to Chris the maestro. Listen to us jawing about his art and all other things 80s at Soho Radio in January 2019 (from 32 minutes in)…



❏ If you wish to correct anything you think is wrong on this site then please mail to contact [a t] shapersofthe80s.com

All text on this site, except where otherwise attributed
© 1978–2023 Shapersofthe80s. All rights reserved.
If you wish to quote from text here, please attribute it to the source, like this:
[Quoted from Shapersofthe80s.com]

❏ This not-for-profit website respects copyright, and where possible will always try to seek permission and give credit to a photographer’s work. If you see any images here to which you own the rights and wish them to be removed, you have only to ask.

❏ Whenever you recycle any picture for your own use, always credit the photographer. That way you help advertise their talent and maintain their reputation. The internet has made it almost impossible to collect the reproduction fees they are entitled to. In the past many have depended on those fees for their livelihood.



➢ Above: The first Blitz invasion of the US spearheaded by Spandau Ballet in 1981. Yours Truly was there to cover it

Cheers, Steve

Cheers Steve!



❏ Some cheeky devils assume that writing about the 80s is all I’ve ever done in life. Others have the nerve to ask how Johnson has killed the time over the 35 years since. The 80s as defined above were like a second adolescence. As a grown-up, I’ve worked for four national newspapers in various exec editing roles and edited more than 70 one-off quality magazines with ad-hoc production teams, usually on top of those day jobs, plus various kinds of media consulting, and running a Creative Writing adult evening course. I’ve never needed much sleep.

❏ iPAD, TABLET & MOBILE USERS PLEASE NOTE — You may see only a tiny selection of items from this wide-ranging website about the 1980s, not chosen by the author. To access fuller background features and site index either click on “Standard view” or visit Shapersofthe80s.com on a desktop computer.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s